Everest Base Camp!
We are feeling pretty relaxed right now, after a pre-trek massage, but it’s been a hectic 2 days to get to this point and an ambitious 3 weeks ahead of us.
We landed in Kathmandu on Tuesday night. We had read a blog post about arriving at the airport, painting a picture of sheer and utter chaos that Ruben assumed was far fetched. And then we got on the bus from the plane to the terminal. As we were getting pushed and shoved from all sides, a young Nepalese woman looked at us and said “Get used to this. It’s worse once we get into the terminal. Wait until baggage claim.” We made it through the visa process and immigration unscathed but then baggage claim and the scrum for a taxi lived up to its billing. Men grabbing at luggage that belonged to someone else; people shouting; no one adhering to any sense of personal space. And outside it was even worse. “Where you go?” “You need a taxi?” coming at us from all sides. Throngs of people everywhere, again with zero sense of personal space. Dust and dirt. And more dust and dirt. We argued with a few taxi drivers – and each other – and finally agreed on a price and found ourselves in a tiny car, driving down narrow streets, narrowly missing other cars, scooters and even the occasional wall.
Kathmandu is quite possibly THE DIRTIEST, DUSTIEST place we have ever been. Narrow roads are occasionally paved, but are often dirt or rubble. There is garbage everywhere, sometimes on fire. There is stench mixed with wafts of curry. But if you can look past the grime there is a haunting beauty to the city. The architecture is striking, albeit decrepit. But we are not here for the city. The mountains are calling.
First we needed to decide where to trek. We knew we wanted to go to Everest Base Camp, but there are route options. Most people fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, known to be one of the scariest airports to land in, and hike from there. Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary hiked in from Jiri, a 8+ hour bus ride from Kathmandu. It adds 5-7 days to the trek. If it’s good enough for the first Everest Expedition, it’s good enough for us. From Everest Base Camp, you can return along the same route or go across the Chola Pass to Gokyo Lake, before returning to Lukla. The views along this route are legendary. We have the time. We will do the circuit, and then fly out from Lukla. Twenty-one days, give or take.
Then we needed to decide how to trek. Our options:
· With a group on an organized trek
· With a local company that would arrange all of the details and provide a guide and/or porter
· By ourselves – with or without a guide and/or porter
We decided on the last option: organize and plan the trek ourselves, possibly hiring a guide once we arrive in Lukla, but with no porter. That means 9-12Kg on our backs, all day, every day. With no one to make any arrangements for us, we hit the ground running.
First stop, Shona’s, a local trekking outfitter in Thamel, to buy all of the gear we don’t have – heavy gloves, trekking poles, a headlamp, extra socks – and to rent sleeping bags. Next, the office of permits and licenses – despite needing 2 different permits and our TIMS cards, a fairly painless process. Then the bus station to buy the bus tickets on the local bus to Jiri. And the supermarket for baby wipes (no hot showers above 4000M), tiger balm and CANDY! The trek runs village to village, staying in tea houses along the way. Food, water, lodging all get more expensive as you climb, so our packs are loaded with chocolate for a daily treat.
So here we are, the night before departure. Nervous and excited. Our bus leaves tomorrow at 7:30am. We will spend the night in Jiri and hit the trail on Saturday, April 22. Hopefully you will hear from us again in three weeks!